During his first few months in office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's tech team has put a lot of city data online.
They’ve made it easier to get at, but not necessarily easier to interpret. The data sets can be downloaded and sorted, but they lack context. They are just names, dates and numbers, with at most brief descriptions of a few words.
That makes them a starting point, not an ending point, for figuring out what goes on at City Hall. (Here's where to find it.)
A number of the new data sets put on line in recent weeks provide details about city lobbyists — the people who work on behalf of others to sway opinion at City Hall, often for subsantial pay. Knowing who is lobbying whom and for what has always been a good way to better understand city government, and it’s an area that has been of interest to our readers.
For a couple of years, the Chicago Board of Ethics has posted online the city’s list of registered lobbbyists and their clients. But it was not in a downloadable form that could be sorted, and it did not include all of the data lobbyists are required to report to the city. To get that, you had to file an Illinois Freedom of Information Act request and go to the Board of Ethics office in the River North neighborhood to view paper documents.
The city’s new data portal is dowloadable, sortable and complete. So we decided to take that data and try to make sense of it, so folks could have a better idea of how City Hall works.
-- Hal Dardick
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